• Mar 7th 2006 at 12:00PM
  • 31
The new 2006 Buick Lucerne is a very large car, which is a good thing considering it has mighty large shoes to fill. It not only replaces the LeSabre in Buick’s lineup but also pinch hits for the now defunct Park Avenue. This means that the Lucerne’s price cuts a wide swath, with the entry level CX beginning at $25,990 and our range topping CXS tester starting at $34,990.

From this it’s apparent that the Lucerne was designed to compete on many different levels. Where the LeSabre fought tooth and nail for the middle class family sedan dollar, the Park Avenue went after luxo-cruiser cash. The Lucerne must attract attention from both types of clientele if it’s to be considered a successful replacement. We were handed the keys to an executive class CXS and plan to find out over the next week whether the Lucerne can fill both of Buick’s vacant shoes.

As we said earlier, the Lucerne CXS starts at  $34,990 and comes out of the box with the venerable Northstar V8 that produces 275 hp and 295 ft-lbs. of torque. Our tester was fitted with a few upscale options like premium paint (Sharkskin, $995); a Driver Confidence package with remote start, theft deterrent and parking assist ($595); heated and cooled front seats ($500); a 6-disc CD changer ($300) and heated washer fluid ($100). With those niceties checked off the price of our Lucerne went up to the not insignificant sum of $36,755.

The first thought we had was wondering how a sedan that starts around $26K could compete in the clouds with such FWD entry-level luxury cars as the Lexus ES330 and Toyota Avalon. Toyota’s power players are the two vehicles most often mentioned in the same breath as the Lucerne, and rightly so as all three compete for a curious group of consumers that values aesthetics over acceleration, plushness over performance and cushiness over captivating handling.

The Lucerne at once arrests its audience with exterior styling that is elegant in form and restrained in execution. Cladding of any form has been banished from this Buick’s skin, leaving a tightly wrapped layer of Sharkskin-colored sheetmetal around this large sedan’s body. It’s an austere shape that looks as if it could swap silhouettes with an Infiniti Q45. The rear end from dead on reminds us of the last generation Audi A8.

The Lucerne’s design would be well received regardless of which automaker’s badge it was wearing, but the fact it sprung from GM’s No. 2 pencils makes it more impressive. This is not to say that Buicks of the recent past have been ugly (save the Skylark), just forgettable. In our eyes the Lucerne, however, would easily garner more glances on the street than the new edge Avalon and swollen ES330.

Devoid of any visual frivolity the Lucerne’s design impresses with details like the smart looking halogen projection fog lamps embedded in the two lower intakes, the 18-inch 10-spoke aluminum wheels, the conservative use of chrome trim to frame the windows and, of course, those port holes.

The front fenders of the CXS are flanked with four port holes each, signifying the eight cylinders of the Northstar V8 beating underhood. Lucernes with a V6 get only three vents per side, which is sure to cause port hole-envy for those owners who notice.

The leanness of the Lucerne’s shape can ironically be credited to the car’s dimensions, which are XXL. In a quick comparison of the Lucerne’s dimensions with the Ford Five-Hundred, Acura RL, Lexus ES330 and Toyota Avalon, we see that the Lucerne boasts the longest length at 203.2 inches and biggest wheelbase at 115.6 inches. With a width of 73.8 inches, however, those dimensions combine to make the car look long, thin and low. It’s the shape you’d expect of something that traverses lengthy interstates with more ease than it tackles the twisties, something like a freight train for the highway.

Any and all flattery earned by the Lucerne’s exterior in this first part of our review is in reality deserved, and you should know they are not being typed by the hands of someone with a permanent seat on GM’s bandwagon. In fact, this scribe has been accused of being a “GM basher” more often than being someone who knows what he’s talking about. So it’s with a bit of humility that Day 1-2 of this review comes to a close.

We’re nowhere near done going over the Lucerne’s faults and fine points. We haven’t cracked a door yet to see what the vehicle’s inner sanctum has to offer, nor have we turned its key and mashed the gas. Can Buick’s super-size sedan maintain its momentum as we go forward? It’s been a long time since the Buick brand has fielded a player that could compete well in the big league of large cars, and the Lucerne needs to be an all-star here. Tune in the rest of this week to find out if it makes contact or misses completely with the masses.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      Aside from the holes in the fender this car looks NOTHING like the Maserati. Very different proportions and much leaner forms.

      The portholes were on the Park Avenue beginning in 2003. Before that they were on some 1980s Buicks.

      One thing this review doesn't note is how much better the car looks in CXS trim owing to larger wheels and the foglights that help disguise the massive front overhang. In base trim the car looks pretty bad.

      The price can be compared with the related DTS at my site, http://www.truedelta.com. For such similar cars, the prices are quite far apart.
      • 9 Years Ago
      this car does look alot like the Maserati. I think it shows the continued lack of imagination and original thinking from the americans.
      • 9 Years Ago
      So glad you're doing this review. I love big V8's in big cars. And a classy design is a deal maker. The target audience of the ads seems to be fans of Tiger Woods and Martha Stewart. There are things wrong, like the plastic panels on left/right sides of the grille. This should either be chromed panels up to the hood line as on a SAAB 9-5 creating a horizontal bumper line, or better, jewel lighting fixture on either side. That nose has too much area for a smooth plasticky look, brighten and class it up.

      The bling factor is great, the sharkskin paint looks supurb with all the chrome accents. How many shots can you see reflections of the photographer? Hint: There are more than four "self portraits" found in the surface shiny on this car.

      • 9 Years Ago
      Hurry up and drive it!
      How often do you get a massive Northstar engine in a big car with the latest suspension management system in the world, for a deal at $28K?
      Maybe the Mustang gives you the power at that price for a V8 but not many other cars.
      This is going to be an awesome road test.
      Fun Buick? Never thought I'd be excited about a Lucerne, but I confess I am.
      • 9 Years Ago
      "Devoid of any visual frivolity........and, of course, those port holes."
      Did anyone else find this funny? Seriously, no Buicks for me until they do away with the portholes. They have enough design problems as it is without that addition.

      • 9 Years Ago

      I looked at a Lucerne a few months ago for fun. Not a bad car at all. It's a little pricey, and it definitely needs the 6 spd. automatic and a little more horsepower, but overall, it's nice.

      I've even heard it's outselling the Avalon nationwide. Although it must be doing it in different markets than where I live (probably in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, etc...) because I see WAY more Avalons here in Houston. I've only seen a handful of new Lucernes (all of them white, perhaps I'm seeing the same one over and over, hehehehe?)

      At the end of the day though, from what I can tell, it needs a little more punch from the V8, and it's still too expensive. Remember, GM has to get these buyers *back*, and price is the only way that will happen. Offer this thing fully loaded, give the V8 a proper 300 hp. rating (minium, maybe even more), 6 spd. with standard everything (nav screen, bluetooth, etc., etc.) and give it a $30k to $32k sticker, and they'll be selling well in every market, perhaps even in markets where they've lost some important ground, like Houston and the West Coast.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I must be getting old, because I like the look of this thing. But WOW is it expensive, especially up here in Canada. GM doesn't seem to have adjusted pricing to take account of the current exchange rate. Anyway, if I was paying that much, I'd be looking seriously for AWD. Or is this another case where (wink wink) the car can be had for many thousands below sticker?
      • 9 Years Ago
      Brand no good so won't buy the car.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Outside of the 4 doors and the vents on the fenders, the Maser and the Lucerne do not look alike, unless you've been chemically "enhancing" your daily existence. I think the Lucerne is a car GM can be proud of. It knows what market it's aimed at, and it seems to be well styled and equipped (6 speed tranny notwithstanding) to take that market on. Very nicely, if not conservatively styled, and every time I catch a glance at one from the rear I need to do a double take to confirm whether it's a Passat/Phaeton/A8 or not. Nicely done. The only nit I have to pick so far is with the article. The trim package is "CXS", not "CSX" as was noted. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to the next updates.
      • 9 Years Ago
      It does look a lot better in person than in pictures, but the nose still looks like an accident. Maybe it's the width of the headlamps, or how thinly spaced the slats are, or how it doesn't define a profile contour; it just looks wrong. At least they got it right on the Enclave, so hopefully that means the next revision of the Lucerne will get it too.
      • 8 Years Ago
      fix up the headlight's and I'll buy one.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think this is a beautiful car on the outside. However the Impala interior is saddening, as is the fact that GM needs a big-ass V8 to pull off what Toyota does with a 3.5 V6. Gas ratings for the Lucerne are 17/25, compared to 22/31 with the Avalon. Why is GM so challenged by fuel economy? Everyone seems to get it right. Also The exhaust pipe on this car is practically gone to hell it sinks down so far. Other then the fine details [which are important in this price range] It's a pretty nice car.
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